(by Staff, CTV news)
June 14, 1994: The date is hanging over Vancouver tonight as the city gears up for the final game of the Stanley Cup finals Wednesday.
Today is 17 years to the day when the New York Rangers defeated the Canucks, bringing the Stanley Cup to Manhattan and leaving downtown Vancouver to riot. The images of that night still weigh heavy on Vancouver’s collective conscience, as drunken fans smashed windows, threw bricks and looted stores, leaving more than 150 arrested and another 200 hurt.
This Game 7 against the Boston Bruins, Vancouver wants things to go differently, with fans safely celebrating a Stanley Cup victory in the streets.
Vancouver police have made many changes in protocol since the 1994 riots, much of it on display during the 2010 Olympic Games.
Thousands of fans have converged downtown to watch the Cup finals against the Boston Bruins, with few problems.
“By and large… things have gone quite well,” Const. Lindsey Houghton said Tuesday.
One of the tactics used by police is to actually let the crowds celebrate, engaging fans in conversation or taking pictures with them.
“People really respond well to it,” Houghton said. “It’s going to be exciting. People are on the edge of their seats and our officers are having a lot of fun. Going back to the Olympics, we gave out a lot of high-fives and posed in a lot of photos and this is no different for us.”
But the provincial government doesn’t necessarily want people to overindulge in fun, as they closed liquor stores at 4 p.m. in Vancouver for Game 6 Monday. They will do it again for Game 7.
Of course, it’s not all about redeeming the city’s virtues as a well-behaved place — it’s about erasing the demons of Canucks forward Nathan LaFayette’s shot off the goalpost in the dying minutes of Game 7 in New York.
That was the closest the city has gotten to a Stanley Cup in 41 years. The wretched play of the Canucks in Game 6 in Boston has done little to allay fears that Vancouver has its own Cup curse.
Goalie Roberto Luongo has been Jekyll and Hyde all series: great at home, but as holey and rotten as old Swiss cheese in Boston.
“That’s embarrassing, man, getting pulled in the first eight minutes,” one fan told CTV after Game 6 Monday, summing up Luongo’s performance.
One clinical psychologist says the lopsided losses have reinforced negative thoughts in some fans.
“The city is quiet. People are feeling dejected, feeling kind of hopeless, it’s been the extremity of the losses that we’ve had,” Dr. Joti Samra told CTV News.
Other fans are looking to the skies for a little help. But not so fast, says Catholic priest Glenn Dion.
“I don’t think He really cares who wins. He just wants everybody to do well and let the chips fall where they may,” he said.
Doing well is making the Stanley Cup finals — but after 41 years, Canucks fans are looking for more than “doing well” — they want it done.
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